On Dirt, Grass, and Human Stupidity


When we lived in Atlanta, a group of our Homeowners’ Association members rented an aerator one Saturday and went to town on our yards. As were were working, an Asian man–a newcomer to the USA–stopped by to watch for a few minutes.

“What are you doing?” he asked me in heavily accented English.

“We’re poking little holes in the ground so our grass will grow better,” I told him.

His mouth fell open in disbelief. “Why?” he asked.

“Sir,” I replied, “I have to tell you honestly I can’t give you a sensible answer.”

I still wouldn’t be able to.

I just spent a good bit of time and money trying to get grass to grow in my front yard. I’ll take another photo in two weeks to see it it looks any different. Here’s hopin’.

As I was tamping in the seed with my rake, I got to thinking about how ludicrous this job actually was. Talk about poor stewardship of the planet! In many other contexts, the tree would be gone, the front lawn would be a vegetable garden, and there would be a goat and a few chickens out back.

Think about it for a minute. We drive somewhere and actually buy dirt. Dirt! We spend a great deal of money and countless hours of our discretionary time growing a plant that is inedible. We spread toxic substances all over it (well, I don’t) to make it grow longer and thicker; then, we use expensive machines to cut it down so we can bag it and lug it to the curb on trash day.

And we’re an advanced culture.



Pizza Boxes and the Global Economy

Perhaps I shouldn’t write about waste right after eating a $52.00 breakfast.

That’s right. Twenty-six crisp, freshly-printed American greenbacks each for a very nice buffet including smoked salmon and capers, cheese blintzes, French pastries, fresh fruit and good pressed coffee–in addition to the usual offerings of eggs, sausage and bacon, bagels and boxed Cheerios.

I won’t say I didn’t enjoy it. I did–every bite. But nobody on this earth needs a $52.00 breakfast. We didn’t pay that much for it. We ate courtesy of American Airlines, who stranded us in Miami because they couldn’t patch a leak in their aircraft quickly enough for us to make our connection to Montevideo. So we ended up with a luxury hotel room and a $52.00 breakfast. (Really, we did pay for it–plane fares allow for the airlines to do this for passengers who find themselves stranded, as we did, by no fault of their own. The carriers are not about to lose money by putting folks up in nice digs. They have lots of other ways to do that.)

How did we get to this place in our culture? How did we come to think we need luxury hotels and buffet breakfasts when our plans go awry?

Pizza boxes.

We ate supper at the airport in Chicago after the second or third delay of our flight–I’d lost count by then. We bought individual pizzas and Cokes, and the pizzas came to us in very nice white corrugated boxes–stout, elegantly printed, waxed cardboard cartons ingeniously and precisely die-cut and folded. Many people in the world would treasure these boxes as useful storage containers for small items in their homes and use them until they disintegrated. We carried ours 6 metres to our table, ate their contents, and then carried them another 3 metres to the garbage. Not the recycling bin, the garbage. The lifespan of these boxes was about twenty minutes.

The global economy is the local economy in macrocosm. And the local economy is a reflection of what I call the “internal economy”. To suggest that the poor, the homeless and the non-working have entitlement attitudes is hypocritical in the extreme. A $52.00 breakfast screams entitlement. So does a beautiful box to carry a pizza to the table.

The shape of the global economy should not come as a shock. The waste in our homes, our restaurants, our corporations and industries and our government (I just saw on TV that a new report suggests the US government wastes $400 billion a year on duplicate programs alone) cannot have anything but cataclysmic effects on the global milieu.

Entitlement starts in the heart, then goes straight to the bank, the store, and the polling booth.

In Ecclesiastes 2.10,11, the Preacher writes about his own sense of entitlement and where it got him:

And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun. (ESV)

This from a man who would have thought a $52.00 breakfast was a good buy.